Teachley: Subtractimals

App review by
Debbie Gorrell, Common Sense Media
Teachley: Subtractimals App Poster Image
Cute characters help kids with fundamental math skills.

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The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn how to subtract using a conceptual approach that incorporates three strategies: Count On, Count Back, and Memory, in which kids subtract mentally. They choose the correct answer using a number line, which further promotes a conceptual understanding. Kids can use hints in the speed round if needed, and earning blocks to reveal an illustration is a fun way to keep kids engaged. More detailed feedback for incorrect answers during the practice rounds could help kids who struggle, and a connective story might entice more reluctant kids. Giving kids multiple approaches, letting them choose which one to take, and allowing for lots of levels sets Teachley: Subtractimals apart from more rote math practice and makes solid use of the screen.

Ease of Play

Gameplay is fairly intuitive, although clear instructions for using the models could help. Using the number line can be glitchy. 

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Teachley: Subtractimals is a math game that teaches kids how to subtract using a variety of strategies, including block models and number lines. As kids solve subtraction problems, they earn gold, green, or red blocks to help them reveal a mysterious illustration. Through the use of strategies such as counting back and counting on, as well as visual models such as blocks and number lines, the game teaches kids a conceptual understanding of subtraction.

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What's it about?

In TEACHLEY: SUBTRACTIMALS, kids complete subtraction problems, earning blocks along the way. Kids begin with the tool round: They are given a subtraction sentence to complete and can choose to Count Back, Count On, or use Memory mode. Count Back and Count On show frogs either licking up or spitting out blocks to help kids visualize the answer. When they figure it out, kids tap it and drag it to the correct answer on a number line. Each answer results in a block; the blocks vary in color according to correctness and number of attempts. After the tool round, kids move to the speed round, where they quickly complete subtraction sentences and earn more blocks; if they're stumped, they get hints. Progress is saved on kids' individual accounts, so parents can keep track of which subtraction facts kids have memorized and which still need work.

Is it any good?

Although some of its touch features may cause a bit of frustration, this math tool is an excellent and comprehensive way for kids to learn and practice subtraction. Kids have the opportunity to visualize and develop an understanding of subtraction through the use of models, which is a much deeper approach than simply using memorization. Kids will enjoy earning blocks and revealing the mysterious illustration, with the speed round being particularly engaging as kids race to beat the clock. The interactive number line is useful for visualization, but it's sometimes difficult to tap the correct answer, so kids may get it wrong even if they know the correct answer. Also, the narrative about Professor Possum isn't apparent in the actual app; there doesn't seem to be a unifying narrative at all. In terms of the practice itself, however, having multiple approaches to each problem help kids access math concepts in several ways.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the importance of subtraction in everyday life. For example, if you have three dollars saved and buy something that costs two dollars, how much will you have left?

  • Give kids pencil-and-paper problems to solve and let them use their own strategies to solve them. Include problems that relate subtraction to addition, such as "6 - 2 = ?" and "2 + ? = 6." Talk about which strategies helped kids the most and why.

App details

  • Device: iPad
  • Subjects: Math: subtraction
  • Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: memorization, part-whole relationships
    Self-Direction: academic development
  • Price: $2.99
  • Pricing structure: Paid
  • Release date: September 21, 2015
  • Category: Education
  • Size: 23.40 MB
  • Publisher: Teachley
  • Version: 1.2
  • Minimum software requirements: iOS 6.0 or later
  • Last updated: March 29, 2021

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